lunes, 20 de mayo de 2013

Gay marriage vote: live - Telegraph.co.uk

He says the language of some of the amendments comes too close to Section 28.

18.38 The Telegraph's Deputy Political Editor, James Kirkup, comments in his Evening Briefing (coming soon to Telegraph Politics) that:

In the end, all that counts in politics is what voters think. That simple truth should inform any lesson drawn from parliamentary manoeuvrings or other Westminster shenanigans.

Bear that in mind when you hear the inevitable claims that David Cameron has been humiliated by having to rely on Labour votes to avert defeat over gay marriage, meaning the Prime Minister is weakened and embarrassed. That assessment may well be correct, but probably only for MPs and others in the Westminster village who follow the detail of parliamentary proceedings and political powerplay.

For people outside the bubble, I suspect the key point will be this: David Cameron wants to let gay people get married and now Ed Miliband is saying he does too. (Nick Clegg also, but anyone who pays attention will surely have assumed that anyway.)

So will today's events change anyone's mind about the issue? I doubt it.

18.30 Sir Tony Baldry (Con) says the Government must allow for the protection of the "religious character" in faith schools. If it goes ahead, it must work.

18.26 Jim Shannon (DUP, Shannon) says the gay marriage Bill could lead to a "chilling effect on free speech".

18.16 Simon Hughes (Lib Dem, Bermondsey and Old Southwark) says "there is still some nervousness that the safeguards [for faith schools] are not sufficient". The Church of England and the Catholic Church are concerned, he adds, over the teaching of gay marriage. He would like reassurance on the issue of guidance for schools from the Government and is sympathetic to the amendments.

18.12 Ed Miliband is using Twitter Obama-style this evening to promote his party's line on gay marriage. Some might see it as an attempt to highlight Tory division over the Bill.

18.07 Nick Herbert points out that, since second reading of this Bill, New Zealand and France have passed legislation for same-sex marriage. "Attitudes are changing fast" across the world, he says.

17.58 Nick Herbert, the former Home Office minister, (Con, Arundel and South Downs), says the Bill protects churches from conducting gay marriages and the churches are content with those protections. Mr Herbert has been in a civil partnership since 2009. He says the law has been wrongly applied to prevent the expression of "forthright views" but this has been wrong.

The Government should explain what the proper balance is; teachers will be under a duty to explain the law of the land but they will be able to "exercise their conscience" and say that they believe it is wrong. But, were teachers to discuss the issue in a "hateful" way that was "upsetting" to children they should be stopped. That is potentially a matter of good teaching as much as a matter for the law. The rules should be clarified.

Edward Leigh welcomes the intervention, but says if that is the case why does Herbert not back the conscience clause for teachers.

Herbert: "Registrars should not be able to discriminate against people who are gay. They are delivering a public service."

17.49 Catherine McKinnell (Labour, Newcastle Upon Tyne North) says she has thought long and hard about speaking today. She comes from a large Catholic family - she's one of eight children - who "prayed together and stayed together". But her older brother came out as gay, which influenced her perspective. Now she believes a "broad and balanced approach", with full awareness of religious teaching, is healthy for children learning about marriage. She will be supporting this legislation, but seeks clarification that there is protection for those teaching the Christian view of marriage in schools. But she is, overall, reassured that this bill does provide for the religious to practice and preach their faith.

17.45 BREAKING: Lib Dem MPs will be "strongly encouraged" to vote with the Labour amendment to save the gay marriage bill. A source said: "The overriding objective of the Liberal Democrats is to ensure that equal marriage becomes law.

"While tonight's votes are free votes, Liberal Democrat MPs will be strongly encouraged to vote in the way that ensures the progress of the Bill is not jeopardised.

"That means our MPs will be strongly encouraged to support Labour's amendment to the proposed consultation and then to oppose Tim Loughton's amendment on mixed-sex couples civil partnerships.

Earlier Nick Clegg said he supported the principle of civil partnerships for heterosexuals but did not want to do anything that would derail the gay marriage bill, saying it had been "hijacked" by opponents.

17.40 Sir Gerald Howarth says there is "complete confusion" over what happens to teachers who refuse to teach about the new definition of marriage - including Muslim teachers. He suspects the Government is content to "leave it to the courts" to decide what should happen, including the ECHR.

Sir Gerald is a church warden at Aldershot Barracks. He says the fears over what happens to Chaplains in the NHS and the Army. What happens if a same sex couple wants to be married at the Royal Garrison Church, he asks, or a military Roman Catholic Cathedral Church. These are religious institutions but funded by the State. What if the choristers and organists don't want to take part, he asks - will they be subject to legal action as public employees?

17.30 David Lammy (Lab, Tottenham) says his father, an immigrant, encountered the attitude and the sign of "no blacks, no dogs, no Irish". That attitude was made illegal by the Commons under race equality legislation. If gay marriage is legalised, Lammy says, then it cannot be allowed for teachers to propagate an alternative view.

Lammy says for 20 years during the slavery debates, Christian MPs argued that the right to keep humans as property was a matter of conscience. They were wrong and the battle for gay marriage is a "noble fight", he says.

Sir Gerald Howarth says Lammy is being "emotive". People feel "intimidated" if they speak against gay marriage. Richard Drax (Con, South Dorset) says Lammy is advocating a "direct attack on free speech."

There's an angry reaction on Twitter to Sir Gerald referring to the "aggressive homosexual community". Wes Streeting, a Labour councillor, says gay men were assaulted in South London yesterday.

17.20 Edward Leigh cites the case of Adrian Smith, a housing trust worker who was demoted and lost 40 per cent of his salary for saying on Facebook that gay marriage is an "equality too far". He won a ruling of breach of contract at the High Court, but he remained without a job and received only £100 for "expressing a very moderate point of view," says Leigh.

The Government is legislating in an atmosphere "so coloured by political correctness" that people like Smith "are treated like villains". The culture of "loony left councils has become embedded in high places," he claims. Those with traditional views are marginalised and dismissed as bigots - and vote for minority parties, says Leigh. For these people marriage is the most important thing in their lives, and they have a right to feel comfortable for expressing their views, Leigh says. He adds calling people "swivel eyed" - the jibe directed at Tory footsoldiers by a Cameron ally - breaches disability rights.

"I don't think he's swivel-eyed, just myopic," says George Howarth (Lab, Knowsley).

But Leigh says: "We are about to create a whole new generation of victims." For people like Smith ministerial assurances are of no help - people who dislike gay marriage "need legal protection against the bullies".

17.00 Stephen Doughty (Labour, Cardiff South and Penarth) says he hopes the joy seen in New Zealand when gay marriage laws were passed there will be replicated in Parliament tonight. "Maybe not the singing."

Edward Leigh (Con, Gainsborough) stands up. "Sing us a love song!" shouts one MP.

Leigh says the Church of England fears the protections for Churches are "not durable" beyond the assurances of ministers. Julian Brazier (Con, Canterbury) says in immigration cases judges have made clear that the views of ministers carry little weight if judges think rules breach human rights legislation.

Leigh says the proposed workplace conscience amendments, allowing registrars and teachers to opt out from advocating gay marriage, do not amount to a licence to be "beastly to gay people".

The House becomes sidetracked. Julian Huppert and others ask Leigh if he believes teachers should be allowed to teach Creationism. William McCrea (DUP, South Antrim) says "many scientists" believe in Creationism.

16.55 Burrowes says the Tory party has shown it is in touch with the public on gay marriage by being divided on it.

He says in Cambridge last week members of the public asked the police "to jail" a street preacher for speaking against gay marriage. He wasn't arrested, but Burrowes fears the "chilling effect" of gay marriage could "criminalise people for exercising their view and preaching traditional marriage".

Edward Leigh says people are having to "self-censor" their views on homosexuality. "There is a chill wind blowing out there for those who uphold traditional marriage," says David Burrowes, in agreement.

Stephen Williams (Lib Dem, Bristol West) says Loughton's abortion surgeon analogy is not valid. Surgeons perform a wide range of jobs, with abortion being a small part of their work. Registrars, by contrast, only perform marriages.

16.45 David Burrowes (Con, Enfield Southgate) is moving the amendment. He says the amendments to the bill - opt-outs for registrars - will protect those with "sincerely held religious belief". Such protections are in place in the Netherlands to protect marriage registrars. Without such protections, the Bill will become an "unfair dismissal bill".

Tim Loughton (Con, East Worthing and Shoreham) says that a Catholic surgeon is allowed to opt out of abortion but a Catholic registrar might not be able to opt out of conducting gay marriages. "Where's the fairness in that?"

Burrowes is unwilling to take questions from Labour. They will be whipped and unable to exercise their consciences, he says, and what's the point in answering them, he asks.

16.35 Stephen Doughty (Lab, Cardiff), says the Bill has been scrutinised repeatedly; he urges opponents to read the transcripts.

Sir Gerald Howarth (Con, Aldershot), says gay marriage was not in any manifesto. It's being "railroaded through the House". There is time in the Parliamentary schedule to give it more scrutiny. The Commitee stage should have place on the floor of the house, he says. The Bill strikes at the "profound beliefs" of MPs on both sides of the House and all amendments should be subject to a free vote, not just the third reading, he says.

16.32 Peter Bone (Con, Wellingborough) says the Bill is being rushed through without proper scrutiny as a procedural motion. "It is going to be a joke," he says. But Julian Huppert (Lib Dem, Cambridge) says two days of debate is quite sufficient.

16.30 On to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

16.29 Tim Loughton is on his feet. He says the fall of Assad should not be an end in itself. An important issue. But the question many in the House want him to answer is whether he will support the Labour amendment - or does he remain set on wrecking Cameron's gay marriage bill.

16.15 BREAKING The Government is likely to accept Labour's amendment.

The Prime Minister's spokesman has signalled there will be a concession on gay marriage and civil partnerships, Rowena Mason reports. The Government is likely to accept Labour's amendment proposing an immediate consultation on civil partnerships for all. He did not say so explicitly but tried to claim that Labour's amendment and the Government's position are "entirely consistent".

16.00 Some blogs: Dan Hodges says Ed Miliband's lifetime to Cameron is good politics - and the right thing to do.

And Cathy Newman says David Cameron and his party are suffering a seven year itch. The wrecking amendment is a rather more subtle attack on Cameron's leadership than all-out war over Europe.

15.55 The debate on gay marriage has been delayed as William Hague gives a statement on Syria. The Foreign Secretary has said Britain may arm rebel forces if the regime does not negotiate seriously at the Geneva peace talks as "no options are off the table." The Speaker has asked that questions are kept short so debate can move onto gay marriage in due course.

15.45 Tim Loughton, the former Children's Minister behind today's amendment, blogged about his motives before the weekend. He said he backed Civil Partnerships but feels marriage as a religious institution can only be between men and women and for the raising of children. He adds: "What has particularly annoyed me in this whole debate, is the tendency for certain elements of the lobby in favour of gay marriage, instantly to caricature anyone who is against, as homophobic. That is grossly unfair, misleading and does nothing to promote their case."

15.28 Ed Miliband has echoed Cooper: Labour will not give in to the temptation to serve Cameron a Commons defeat at the cost of gay marriage. But he will use the vote to show how Cameron is unable "to control his party."

15.05 The developments so far today:

Overnight it emerged Tim Loughton, the former Minister, had tabled a wrecking amended to the same-sex marriage bill. The amendment, to be voted on tonight as the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill returns to the Commons, would see civil partnerships opened up to heterosexual couples. That, the Treasury say, would cost the country £4bn in pension rights. It would potentially mean the bid to legalise gay marriage would be shelved until after the next election.

This morning Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, admitted the amendment could be backed by as many 150 Tory backbenchers and it would mean a "significant delay" to gay marriage plans.

Later, the Archbishop of Canterbury said he opposed the Loughton amendment - even though, like Loughton, he opposes gay marriage - because it would create "further confusion" over the role of marriage in society. "We remain unconvinced that the introduction of such an option would satisfy a genuine and widespread public need, other than for those who pursue 'equality' as an abstract concept," a briefing said.

At a briefing of lobby journalists today, it was announced the Prime Minister will vote against the amendment and warned it will present "significant challenges". Mr Cameron's official spokesman said he agreed with Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, who said this morning that the amendment could create "significant challenges".

Meanwhile, Nick Clegg said he would also oppose the amendment. He supports the principle of civil partnerships for all but said it risked becoming "hijacked by those whose ulterior motive is actually to discredit or to derail the legislation."

A survey of a quarter of all MPs (159 were polled) found 73 per cent were in favour of the reform being proposed by Tim Loughton. Mr Cameron's gay marriage plans appeared in serious peril.

Then, at one o'clock, Labour threw the PM a lifeline. Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, told the World at One that Labour is tabling its own amendment to the legislation calling for an immediate consultation on extending civil partnerships.

Miss Cooper said Labour's amendment would establish "an immediate consultation on opposite sex civil partnerships" rather than in five years as proposed by the Government. Labour MPs, contrary to speculation, will be asked to support the Government in order to save Mr Cameron's marriage Bill. Miss Cooper said Labour would not be "sucked into the vortex of Tory infighting." She added: "We know that David Cameron's leadership is now too weak to be able to be able to push this through or to get support on his own benches."

The debate is due to get underway within the hour. Expect a division some time after 10pm.

15.00 Good afternoon and welcome to live coverage of this evening's vote on the Government's gay marriage plans.

For more political news visit telegraph.co.uk/politics

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